"Bashar is completely removed from reality, as if he is talking about a country other than Syria," said a Syria-based activist who identified himself by his nickname, Abu Hamza, because of fear of reprisals. "After 10 months of bloodshed, he comes out and talks of a foreign conspiracy."
The United Nations said last month that more than 5,000 people, including soldiers who have defected or refused to shoot on civilians, have been killed since protests began. The Syrian government dismissed that report, which did not account for any serving members of the military killed by opponents, as "incredible" and countered that 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed, according to BBC.
Previous speeches often included promises of reform, and in today's speech, Assad said a referendum on the Constitution and elections could be held this year. However, he also said any reforms made should not be in response to the uprising. "We should link what happened before the crisis and post-crisis and then embark on reform.... We shouldn't build our reforms on this crisis," he said, according to BBC.